STEVEN KALAS: Reaching out for help is the start of adopting a new life

"From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity." – Edvard Munch

There are two things that I can’t handle: rejection and acceptance. When I’ve been rejected, I alternate between anger and depression. When I felt accepted, I felt giddy and acted oddly, driving others away. I have reached age 40 and I have never been in a relationship with a woman. Now I’ve been alone for so long, it seems like loneliness is normal and the hurt is a part of my routine, like someone living with a terrible disease. It’s my crutch, my cross. I can’t even make a casual friend of a female co-worker. Women do like me, not all of them but some. I usually ignore them or realize too late that they were attracted to me. Meeting a woman seems like an impossibility. Everyone is married or attached somehow. Online dating hasn’t gotten me anywhere. No one wants a 40-year-old man. I don’t know where single ladies gather, but it’s probably too far away and I’d look like a fool anyway, unable to speak to a stranger. I’d give anything for a new friend, but it won’t happen. – N.W., Las Vegas

OK. So, no one has ever quoted Edvard Munch to me in a column before. This alone was quite the surprise in my mailbox. I tip my hat to you.

Munch was a painter whose almost sole fame is a painting called "The Scream." The painting is nearly as famous in the human imagination as the "Mona Lisa." It is said to depict the universal predicament of modern human beings and their relentless emotional anxiety.

In the wake of the painting’s recent purchase for almost $120 million, New York Times writer Karen Rosenberg said: "Once just the Symbolist shriek of a single, mentally ill artist at the dawn of the 20th century, it’s become a projection screen for our own fin-de-siecle anxieties, psychic, environmental, political and, yes, economic. Munch’s skeletal alter ego, cowering beneath a blazing sunset, has been given a clinical diagnosis of ‘depersonalization disorder.’ "

You know a painting is archetypal for human beings when a psychologized culture starts psychoanalyzing it, then gives the painting a DSM diagnosis. Wow.

Now, you’re the one quoting him, so it won’t surprise me if you already know this, but did you know what Munch said about "The Scream"?

"For several years I was almost mad. You know my picture, ‘The Scream’? I was stretched to the limit. Nature was screaming in my blood. After that, I gave up hope ever of being able to love again."

I quote it because the last line reminds me of you. Of the letter you wrote to me. But you distinguish yourself from Munch, too. Munch says that he gave up hope of ever being able to love again. Again! You say that you have never been in a relationship with a woman, period! No wonder your soul is screaming.

Pay attention to the way you talk to me in painful dichotomies. Pain and depression. Rejection and acceptance. A crutch and a cross. Language like this cries out to me of a human soul longing for integration and wholeness. A man incessantly torn in half.

I want you to go online and read everything you can find about social anxiety disorders. Then I want you to research attachment theory and attachment disorder. Then, just to be thorough, I want you to research avoidant personality disorder, its suspected genesis and treatment prognosis.

And it can’t surprise you that I’m going to wonder if you’ve ever attacked this crippling stuckness and palpable despair with the aid of a talented therapist. Because it’s not true that everyone is married or attached. And it’s not true that no one wants a 40-year-old man. There is, right now, an unprecedented glut of 40- to 65-year-olds, longing to meet a potential life partner and friend. What’s more likely is that you have spent your life "walled off" from the human communion you desire so deeply. There are reasons for this. And there are solutions.

I would tell Munch and I would tell you quoting Munch what my therapist once told me: "Get off the cross; we need the wood!" Meaning, enough with the existential retching. Yep, we’re worm food, the lot of us. Depending on where we’re buried – if we’re buried – maybe we’ll grow ragweed instead of flowers.

But while we’re here, the mandate is to grow love.

You reached out to me, N.W. You decided not to be alone. Now reach out to someone who can help you.

Steven Kalas is a behavioral health consultant and counselor at Las Vegas Psychiatry and the author of "Human Matters: Wise and Witty Counsel on Relationships, Parenting, Grief and Doing the Right Thing" (Stephens Press). His columns also appear on Sundays in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Contact him at 702-227-4165 or

Local Videos
Bonnie Springs closes (Caroline Brehman/Kimber Laux)
Bonnie Springs Ranch near Las Vegas officially closed its gates Sunday, March 17, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Honoring a fallen North Las Vegas Police officer at his namesake school
The 20th Annual Raul P. Elizondo Honor Day celebrates the fallen North Las Vegas Police officer's legacy at his namesake school. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Windy day in Las Vegas Valley
The Review-Journal's camera on the under-construction Las Vegas Stadium the was buffered by high winds on Wednesday, March 14, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
March gloom falls on Las Vegas
After a rainy overnight, gloomy skies hover over Las Vegas Tuesday morning. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
John Katsilometes gets his head shaved at St. Baldrick's
Las Vegas Review-Journal man-about-town columnist John Katsilometes gets his head shaved by former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman during St. Baldrick's Foundation shave-a-thon on the Brooklyn Bridge at New York-New York in Las Vegas Friday, March 8, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The Blue Angels take flight over Las Vegas Strip
The Blue Angels’ U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron flew their signature Delta formation over a part of the Las Vegas Strip, McCarran International Airport and east Las Vegas and were scheduled to fly over Hoover Dam. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Gross World Records
A group of about 20 children gathered around a TV at Sahara West Library on Feb. 27 for a history lesson on the most disgusting world records.
Graduation for Renewing HOPE program
The Renewing HOPE program graduation for homeless who spend nine months in Catholic Charities program. Graduates are preparing to enter the workforce. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Car crashes into Starbucks near Las Vegas Strip
Lt. William Matchko of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police gives details about a car crashing into a Starbucks at Sahara Avenue and Paradise Road, near the Las Vegas Strip, on Friday, March 1, 2019. (Jessica Terrones/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Car crashed into PT’s Gold
A 60-year-old man who police believe was impaired drove into a PT’s Gold at Silverado Ranch and Decatur boulevards Thursday night, Metropolitan Police Department Lt. William Matchko said. The driver was hospitalized and is expected to survive. A man inside the bar was hit by debris but drove himself to the hospital, Matchko said. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Driver crashes vehicle into PT’s tavern in south Las Vegas (part 1)
A driver suspected of impairment crashed a vehicle into the wall of a PT’s Gold tavern, at 4880 W. Silverado Ranch Blvd., in Las Vegas on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. (Katelyn Newberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Driver crashes vehicle into PT’s tavern in south Las Vegas (pullout)
A driver suspected of impairment crashed a vehicle into the wall of a PT’s Gold tavern, at 4880 W. Silverado Ranch Blvd., in Las Vegas on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. (Katelyn Newberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kids Read Books To Dogs At The Animal Foundation In Las Vegas
Kids from local Las Vegas elementary schools took part, Thursday, in a program at the Animal Foundation, where they read books to dogs. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Pioneer Trail highlights historic locations in West Las Vegas
The Pioneer Trail, a 16-site route of historically significant locations in Las Vegas, starts at the Springs Preserve and snakes east until it reaches above the brim of downtown. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutefsya
Vegas Warm Weather Hits Las Vegas Valley
Between Feb. 20-21, parts of the Las Vegas Valley were hit with 7.5" of snow. Less than a week later, it was sunny with temperatures in the 70s. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dr. S. Jay Hazan, a World War II veteran, talks about his arrest at the VA Hospital
Dr. S. Jay Hazan, a World War II Army veteran, was arrested in November after he caused a ruckus at the VA Hospital in North Las Vegas and stole his driver's car keys. He was arraigned on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, and the charges will be dropped after 60 days. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Claytee White talks about Black History Month
An interview with Claytee White, director of the Oral History Research Center at UNLV. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Reflecting on the Moulin Rouge and a segregated Vegas
Former employees of the Moulin Rouge, the first integrated hotel-casino in Nevada, talk about what it was like in the brief six months the casino was open. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas home prices
Home prices rose in every ZIP code in the Las Vegas Valley in 2018 for the second year in a row, according to SalesTraq. Prices grew fastest in older, more centrally located areas. But prices were highest in the suburbs. The top three ZIP codes for price growth were 89119 (29.8%), 89146 (25%) and 89030 (24.6%). The top three ZIP codes for median sales prices were 89138 ($464,500), 89135 ($420,500) and 89052 ($370,000).
Wagonwheel Drive overpass reopens after ice closure
Overpass at Wagonwheel Drive reopens after ice on the onramp caused the ramp to be shut down, Feb. 22, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Keeping warm at the city of Las Vegas’ homeless courtyard
With help from the city of Las Vegas, a Salvation Army shelter stays open during the day Thursday and Friday, offering a safe place for the homeless to find respite from freezing temperatures and snow. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sloppy, Slushy Road Conditions Lead to Slow Traffic
Traffic slowed to a crawl on Jones are near Russell as conditions worsened Thursday. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Winter storm blankets west side of Las Vegas Valley
On Wednesday evening through early Thursday a winter storm dumped more than 7 1/2 inches of snow on some parts of the Las Vegas Valley. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas snow day for children
Las Vegas kids play in the snow that fell on Feb. 21, 2019. (Belinda Englman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snow closes Red Rock Canyon, residents enjoy rare snowfall
The greater Las Vegas area was hit with snowfall on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2019. This video shows the areas surrounding Red Rock Canyon and the Summerlin community. Video by: Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas kids attend school in the snow
Las Vegas children attend school during a rare snowstorm on Feb. 21, 2019. Staton Elementary School and other CCSD schools remained open. (Glenn Cook/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
People enjoying the snow in Summerlin
Fox Hill Park in Summerlin was busy Thursday morning, Feb. 21, 2019, with people enjoying the rare snow that fell overnight. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NHP advises motorists to take caution during Las Vegas snowstorm
NHP advised motorists to take caution during the snowstorm in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Timelapse of snow at Red Rock Canyon
More than 7 inches of snow fell in the western areas of the Las Vegas Valley, including Red Rock Canyon, on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snow falls at Fremont Street Experince in Las Vegas
Snow falls at the Fremont Street Experience early Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019 in Las Vegas. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
It is a rainy Valentine's Day in Las Vegas - Video
These scenes come from the Las Vegas Stadium LiveCam (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Home Front Page Footer Listing